Today, Elder Alma led us in a Pipe Ceremony and Smudge. I was amazed in how easy she was to listen to. She explained everything in such an amazing way, and as she sang, I got chills. I did not really know what to expect, but I found it to be an unreal experience. Everything about it was beautiful. I am so thankful to have been a part of this, and to be able to share my experience with my future students. It unified us in a way that I have never experience, and it was truly beautiful. I was very afraid that I would accidentally pass the pipe in the wrong way, which would in turn end the ceremony, but luckily my fear did not become a reality.
I learned so much from Elder Alma, and I was inspired by her words. Her deep and undeniable respect for mother earth and nature is moving, and I am so thankful for having the opportunity to meet from her, and learn from her. She taught me that as a Treaty Person, I need to respect the earth, and others around me. She also taught me to appreciate the little moments that happen everyday. I think that sometimes, I become so focused on the future, that I forget to enjoy what is happening to me right now. This is something I am working on. Alma helped to me to see the joy in the present.
When I think if enjoying the present, one moment truly sticks out in my mind. I remember my grad day, when I saw a bright orange flower. When I looked at that flower, I remember seeing its beauty, I remember smelling its fragrance, and I remember that in that moment, I didn’t think about anything else other than the beauty of that flower. This is a very rare thing for me, and I think that that is why this particular moment sticks out so much. The rarity of the moment is what makes me remember it so vividly. I think of this memory often, and I strive to live my life like I did in that very moment. It is something that is very hard for me, but Alma’s words showed me why it is so important.
Today was an amazing experience. When I got to class, Audrey asked for volunteers to present tobacco to the students. My immediate reaction was, NO! THAT IS WAY TO SCARY! But once I took a minute to think about it, I realized that it would be a great opportunity, so I volunteered. I have seen tobacco being presented to elders and life speakers many times before, so I had an idea of how it was supposed to go. Since there were seven of us presenting at once, I figured that the attention would in no way shape or form be on me, so it seemed like the right time for me to put myself out there and present tobacco for the first time. I thought I would be nervous, but as we walked to Audrey’s office, I felt myself becoming more and more calm. I was very surprised at my level of comfort, and I was very proud of myself for taking this step. Even though my initial reaction was panic, that feeling faded very quickly.
This was a pivotal moment in my Treaty Walk. Going outside of my comfort zone is something that is often very difficult for me, but I was happy to have taken the opportunity I did today. As Audrey explained what we were to do, there were a couple of girls who were completely freaking out. Usually when others around me panic, I jump right on that train and feed off of their stress, but I found myself playing a very different role today. Instead of stressing out with them, I tried to calm them down. This was a huge change for me, and I think that it demonstrates my growth as a Treaty Person. As I presented the tobacco, I did not feel scared. I felt honoured. As they spoke, I was in awe of their stories, and their ability to speak in front of a group of University students at such a young age. Their stories were amazing, and I was so thankful for their willingness to share their experiences with us. Their leadership qualities were evident, and I was extremely grateful that they shared with us today. Hearing from students’ perspectives is such a powerful thing, I was very moved by their words. When I was first told that I had to write a card as they spoke, I was a little nervous of what to say. I found that writing was easy, and the only hard part was writing small enough to ensure I didn’t run out of room. I had so much to say, and I was extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to write my thoughts. I am someone who sometimes struggles to form my thoughts out loud. I much prefer to write because it allows me to think, and form my thoughts purposefully. This card allowed me to do that, I was very grateful.
For a few weeks now, I have been debating on what I want to ‘do’ for my final representation of my Treaty Walk so far. Ever since Daniella Zalcman’s presentation, I have known that I want to do something involving photography. Russell’s visit reconfirmed the idea that I wanted to do something that involved learning and teaching about Metis culture. I know that this is something I know very little about, and I really want to change that. The thought that the children within my community are not learning about something so important is devastating, and I want to do something that changes that. This thought brought to my attention that I wanted to do something that includes photography, Willow Bunch, teaching, and children. When I think about these four things, the first thing that comes to my mind is a children’s book. After doing some research, I found that there is a book on the Metis of Willow Bunch, and I plan to read this in order to understand some of the history of my community. Once I read the book, I will do the following:
- Establish important places in Willow Bunch.
- Narrow it down to five, and take pictures of these places.
- Write about the history in a child friendly way.
- Show a picture of what the land looked like when the Metis peoples first arrived in the area, and compare it to what it looks like now.
- Create a children’s book that could be used in my classroom.
Since I hope to teach within the area at some point in my life, I envision this being a great addition to my classroom library. I also envision myself taking my students on a field trip in order to learn and see the historic places that are so near us, and I think that this book would help to prepare them for what they are going to see. I think that it is extremely important to teach our students about the history that has impacted who we are today, and that is what I aim to do in creating this book. I think that this would be a great way to introduce this topic, and to create deeper learnings. My plan may change, but this is my idea as of right now. I have ordered the book, and will begin this story as soon as it comes in.
Russell’s visit really put a lot of things into perspective for me. He taught me that I do not know nearly as much as I thought I did, and it was a very humbling experience. It helped me realize how little I know about Metis people, and that it why I want to make Metis history the focus of my Treaty Walk. I will never know more if I do not choose to learn, which is why I am choosing to learn now. When Russell showed us the video of the Lesperance family, it really saddened me. I had no idea that Metis people were denied eduction in such an unfair way. I also did not realize that they were forced to live in little shacks on ‘settlers land.’ What really struck me is the new way this caused me to look at land. I always saw it as something that people owned, but I am beginning to realize the realities behind it. At the beginning of Russell’s visit, he mentioned that Willow Bunch was a Metis nation. This was the second time I had heart that within this class, and it truly blows my mind that I did not know this. The video he showed us revolved around the Lesperance family. This is a very prominent family in Willow Bunch. One of the Lesperance families living a mile down the road from me, and went to school with me. Even though the family in this video is not necessarily related to the Lesperance’s of Willow Bunch, it really helped me to make a connection to the video. I want to know more about the place I live, and the history behind it. For my treaty walk, I want to learn more so I can educate others about the place in which we live.
Making a decision on what to ‘do’ for my treaty walk has been somewhat difficult. After a lot of consideration, I think I have decided to make a photography book. Daniella’s presentation showed me the value and meaning that a picture can hold, and I want to create a moment like that to describe and represent my learning. At the beginning of the semester, Audrey mentioned something that really stuck out to me. She shared with us that Willow Bunch is one of the Metis Nations of Canada. I am from Assiniboia, which is half an hour from Willow Bunch. My farm is located within the RM of Willow Bunch. Since I have grown up in the area, I was shocked that I had never learned about the Metis history of Willow Bunch throughout my schooling. It is something that could have easily been implemented into our curriculum, and could have made for a very interesting and meaningful learning experience. The fact that it wasn’t so much as mentioned is unfathomable to me. For my final Treaty Walk representation, I want to do something that is relevant to me. I am not completely certain on what direction I want to take with this, but I know that I want to do something that includes Willow Bunch, and that includes some form of photography. Daniella inspired me, and she showed me the power that can come from photographs. I want this to be a part of my final representation, but I am still working on the details behind my idea.
Earlier this week, I saw a tweet on my twitter feed about Daniella Zalcman. I did not know who she was, and the tweet did not offer a lot of information on her. All it really said was that she was giving a presentation at the University about her work with Residential Schools. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to learn more about Residential Schools, so I went. I am so thankful that I did! It was the best presentation I have ever been to. She is a photojournalist from the United States who has spent the last few years creating a project on Residential Schools. She has interviewed several residential school survivors, and has documented their stories in a creative, and powerful way. I found her story inspiring, and I thought her work was amazing. She interviewed several survivors, and asked them to share their experiences with Residential Schools. She then took a quote from their interview, and created an image to represent it. As I looked through the images of her book, I was amazed at the emotions that I felt as I looked through the images. I felt a deep sense of sadness as I read their quotations, and read about their experiences. I ordered the book, because I feel like it is an extremely powerful way to teach students about the realities of Residential Schools. This presentation really helped me gain some direction in my Treaty Walk, and I am very thankful that I made the choice to go!
The blanket exercise is something I had heard of, but had never experienced. Going into it, I was very unsure of what to expect. I did not really know what it was about, or what would happen during the exercise. I was very surprised by the emotional response I felt throughout the entire experience. Hearing about Canada’s history is very overwhelming, and difficult to imagine. Going through years and years of history within one hour is extremely powerful, and devastating. I tried to imagine what it would be like to try to heal from such events, and I can’t. As the exercise continued, it seemed as though we just went through obstacle after obstacle. Every time we seemed to take one step forward, we took five steps back. It was extremely discouraging. Early on in the exercise, I was handed a blue card with an X on it. As we moved forward with the experience, I couldn’t help but wonder what this X might mean. Every time Bobby spoke, I wondered if his words would involve me. Near the end, I was told that I was one of the hundreds of students that did not survive Residential Schools. While I was being removed from the exercise, I could not help but think of the children who lost their lives. These children endured more pain and suffering than I could possibly imagine, and my heart hurts for them. Since I have never experienced Residential School myself, I cannot possibly begin to imagine what it must have been like. Canada’s history saddens me deeply. As I continue to learn more and more, I become more and more affected. I am in disbelief that anyone could have ever thought it was okay to treat people in this way. I will never understand how our country allowed this to happen, but I cannot change the past. All I can do is change the future. By becoming a teacher, I have the opportunity to do so. By educating the future, we can ensure this never happens again. We can also do what we can to help those who have suffered, and to be their supporters and allies. We are all treaty people, and this will never change. It is a never ending relationship, and this is something that I am beginning to realize.
How do you begin to understand a culture that is entirely different from your own? This is a question I have often pondered. Indigenous people have specific ceremonies and symbols, and it is difficult to understand as a person who has only just begun her treaty walk. I want to be respectful, and culturally appropriate. Sometimes my fear that I will fail to be these things stops me from trying, and that is something that I need to work on. Everyone makes mistakes, but the biggest mistake of all is letting it stop you from trying. Today, I attended a smudge for the first time. I had no idea what to except going into it. For some reason, my naive mind imagined that it had something to do with ashes…I am not sure why. Going into something with no expectations leaves your mind open to imagination. While Noel’s grandson spoke about his Grandfather, I felt truly moved. The respect and admiration he had for his Grandfather, or Nimosom was truly beautiful. I couldn’t help but think that if everyone had that much respect for others, the world would be a wonderful place. One thing that I learned from this experience is that Noel chooses to be referred to as a life speaker. I think that I just always assumed that everyone was referred to as an elder (naive, once again). This taught me to never make assumptions, but to rather ask questions. This is an important revolution in my treaty walk. The main thought I had during this smudge was, “am I doing this right?” When I was up there, I literally had no idea what to do with my hands. I felt like I was somewhat flailing, and it was a very uncomfortable feeling. At the end, he told us that there was no ‘correct’ way to do it. This is important to understand, and it brings me to the main point of this point. You will never learn if you don’t try, and failing to try is failing to learn.
I currently live in Regina, SK, which is on Treaty 4 land. I am originally from Assiniboia, SK, which is located two hours south of Regina. When I entered University, my information about treaties, and Canada’s history was very limited. Over the past four years, I have learned so much. I have learned that I am a treaty person, and I have learned about the history of Canada, and how it affects all of us living on Treaty land today. Even though I have come a long way over the past few years, I know I still have a long way to go. I know that I am treaty person, but I am still learning what that means. My knowledge is constantly expanding, and I am very excited to be embarking upon this lifelong journey of being a treaty person.